Post-Conference Thoughts

Last week I attended a national conference and had a great conference experience. This post will speak to things that we junior to mid-career faculty can do better. And, I’ll also have some advice for the advanced graduate students.

1. Walk around ready to engage in small talk with people you don’t know or want to meet. Try to avoid only chatting with your friends and colleagues. While picking up with them is important, you also can serve as a bridge to someone new at that meeting or new to the discipline.

2. Smile and say hello. It sounds simple, but it doesn’t come naturally for everyone. Ask people about their project. Try to be friendly. When Rita Mae Kelly died some years ago, I was quite upset. I didn’t know her well, but I recalled on numerous occasions she approached me and chatted with me for 5-15 minutes asking me about my grad school experience. She went out of her way to make me feel comfortable at the Political Science Meetings. When a session was held for her, I was in the audience crying. I looked forward to her chats. We never exchanged an email, but I was familiar with her work and I have all those memories of our chats that can’t count up to more than 5.

3. Go to the receptions and some of the dinners. It’s good be seen, but also it’s another opportunity for you to meet new people or strengthen old networks. When I walked into the banquet room with 270+ people I made the immediate decision to not look for friends. Instead I walked up to a half filled table and sat down there. As luck would have it, sitting across from me was someone I “met” via Twitter! I ended up having interesting conversations with a retired colleague and an advanced grad student from a UK program.

4. I was glad that I was active on the Twitter tag for the conference. The first morning I had breakfast with an undergrad from another province. We chatted and walked back to the conference site. I was also able to meet some others in real life, who I had previously known on Twitter. Social Media can be useful for the conference. I took notes at the Women’s’ Caucus Luncheon’s Mentoring Session and posted them immediately on Tumbler.

5. I attended lots of wonderful sessions and made a point to speak to one of the presenters. And, I also thanked the chair or discussant for their helpful comments. I paid attention. The panelists in some cases were senior people across the discipline, and in other instances are future colleagues. One of these conversations once led to a publication opportunity.

6. Take business cards. You might meet new people who want to contact you or vice versa. It’s good to have the cards at the ready. I find that I am apt to pass them out more so to advanced graduate students and let them know that I’m just an email or tweet away!

Overall, the conference was a success and from my comments you can glean: be out there!

Tips for the #CPSA

These tips are good for most academic conferences and probably even for non-academic conferences. I know that I’ve used these tips at Social Media Conferences, women’s conferences, and other work related conferences. The Canadian Political Science Conference begins tomorrow night at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta. And, these comments are good for graduate students, people on the market, and probably for some junior faculty.

My major point of advice is to first ascertain what sort of conference participation do you want. Do you want to attend, see your friends, and leave? Perhaps you are on the job market and you want to network and help raise your profile. If you’re on the job market, I suggest that you focus on your presentation or attending the presentations of people in your sub-field, and prepare for networking. What does this mean? Have conversations with people–communicate. Ask them if they are enjoying the conference, and which panels did they like best. Yes, this is small talk, but you might be getting to know someone for the first time and then the conversation can hopefully continue.

How do you do this? Smile. Be ready to have conversation with people at the conference meetings. Ask questions during the question and answer period after a presentation. When you’re at a reception (yes, attend some of them), walk around and talk to people. This might be small talk about the food or notice their name tag. You might know someone at their institution. Do you have business cards? If so, prepare to pass them out, when you’ve chatted with someone. You might want more comments from them on a chapter of your thesis or an article that you’re working on.

Likewise, if you’re giving a presentation, talk to the people on the panel and in the room afterward. You might find that someone there wants to chat more with you. Be bold and encourage the group to continue the conversation over coffee, drinks later or to meet at a reception. The only way that you’ll meet new people is if you make an effort. If you really want to meet a particular person, see if any of your mentors know this person and can introduce you.

Go to receptions! Be seen. Talk to people. Wear your name tag. Plan your conference itinerary. Spend pockets doing the networking thing and others attending the conference or seeing the conference city.The organization will help you avoid exhaustion of being “on” during the entire conference. This means that you need to take time to recharge, but be careful to not drink too much at any official conference events. It doesn’t look too professional and you don’t need a hangover. If you’re looking for work and there are certain people you want to meet–attend their talks or attend their campus reception. This is easier if the host site is the department in question. Overall, enjoy the conference and go there with an open mind and positive attitude.

Collegiality on Campus

Today’s Friday Fun Facts is a reminder. A reminder for me and others that when you work on a college campus–all the other employees are your colleagues.
  • At times the environment we work in on a college campus is stressful. The students’ stress vibrates off their bodies during certain points in the term. It’s always wise to confer with colleagues about student needs.
  • When conferring with colleagues across campus, remember that you are on the same side or the same team. We are all working together on this microcosm. And, this microcosm is ultimately smaller than you think.
  • Never say something via email that you would not say to someone’s face. Likewise, never say something on a voice mail or via a phone call that you would not say to someone’s face. I remember this instance a few years ago when a colleague across campus raised her voice at me, when she had incomplete information. I finished the phone conversation and assumed that she was having a bad day. Later, though, I wondered if I should follow up with a memo. I did not–I let it go.
  • Remember that while this is the students’ campus–it is your workplace, so act accordingly. A campus might seem really “chill” and laid back, but it is still your where you work.
  • Get out of your department or silo and meet people across campus. Yes, get out of your comfort zone and network. It’s healthy and you’ll make new friends.
I look forward to you comments about this post.

Remembering to Breathe

On Saturday, March 17th I had the distinct pleasure of participating in a Mom panel on Real Parenting with Shirley Broback and two of the three co-founders and organizers of Breathe Now. The interview was focused on parenting tweens and teens and what this means for us. It was a great interview and I was reminded how almost two years ago we decided that we wanted to organize a conference for women.

The idea was that we have all attended work-related conferences, mom conferences, and social media conferences, but we did not feel like there was a conference dedicated to the three in such a way that also dealt with issues unique to women. And, as I noted on Real Parenting the fateful meeting at Murchie’s was when we came up with the name, Breathe Now. We wanted to remind women that it’s important to inhale, exhale and breathe. We need to be nice to one another and more importantly to ourselves.

My involvement with Breathe Now has offered me opportunity to get to know the other three co-founders well. And, with that I’ve also met so many wonderful people in the local community. We see the conference as part of our project to build connections for women. We run the gamut, though, with a former government worker–turned personal chef, communications consultant, a hotel industry executive, and an academic. What we share with this conference is an acknowledgement of the importance of women supporting one another. There is so much knowledge that we can share with one another–but the only way this will be done is by taking the time to talk and chat.

Breathe Now offers a weekend of events that is sure to inspire. We are proud that Rona Maynard is our opening keynote and Bif Naked is our closing keynote. The array of our panels reminds women that it is OK to take time for yourself. We are also setting up our slate of panels to look at the theme of It’s OK.  For instance, it’s OK to take time out for yourself, it’s OK to be successful…this theme is important, as women often apologize for taking time out for themselves or for their success.

I’ll end saying that I hope to see you at the conference on April 14 and 15 2012 at the beautiful University of Victoria!

Sexism in Golf: Grass is Green

I don’t usually read Golf Digest but this last issue included a few articles related to sexism within the golf world. The first article was “Woman Undercover” by Peter Finch. In this article, professional golfer, Kim Hall, played golf at five different courses assuming a different persona: the stay at home mom, the golf newbie, the pretty golf newbie, the jock, and the LPGA Tour player. She played the golf course according to her role and the anecdotal observations demonstrates that sexism is pervasive on the links. (Is that what they call it? I’ve never golfed before, so who knows.)

I’ve always thought of golf as a patrician sport. To me, golf is a sport that is mostly male and upper class, as it is expensive to play and it is where lots of men (and some women) do business. I read the article with particular interest, as it was suggested to me by the golfer in my household. I opened up the magazine with an open mind considering that he often refers to many a Men’s Health article to me for review.

When I read that the Hall “mom” character shared that she was a mom and was summarily ignored for the rest of the game, I was not too surprised. Western society often does this to mothers—they are boring and have nothing to add. I recall being a new mother and taking time off from my dissertation and seeing people’s eye glaze over, when I shared that I was a new mom. Hall was “just” a mom and the small talk did not take place—she was invisible. Not surprisingly the persona that fielded the most attention and deference was the pretty persona—including red lipstick and more alluring outfit. It was interesting to read how the people she was paired with would leave without her…they didn’t wait! Each of the characters she portrayed was treated with some dismissal though, until Hall played her true game, then the male golfers that she was paired with paid attention. They denied that they had tried to lose her by starting without her, but I think they had “misremembered.”

Hall had a good taste of the way in which she was immediately judged by men based on her dress and golf game. Again, this study was not scientific, but we can certainly draw something from it. I read each anecdotal experience with great interest. And, you would have to live on an island to not know that golf is not a sport that has lots of gender parity and diversity among the golfers. We can thank Babe for opening golf to more women, but that is a different post!

One of the next articles is a short one by Stina Sternberg “Avid Women Golfers Speak Out,” where some statistics are offered about the ways in which women golfers perceive the ways in which they are treated on the golf course. The questions vary from how strangers treat them, when they are paired for a game to how often they garner unsolicited golfing advice by men.

The March 2012 issue was certainly interesting, but I don’t see myself taking up golf anytime soon. But, to students who are thinking of going into business, government or the non-profit sector, lots of people golf, so you might want to take some lessons.

On the Job Market: Undergrads

This post is going to offer some suggestions for students who are entering the job market. Some of my suggestions were shared previously, but they are worth repeating.

1. Go by the Career Services or similar offices on your campus. Usually Alums can also use this service.

  • When there check out the services.
  • Attend a resume writing workshop or ask one of the staff to review your resume
  • Attend any other useful workships that the office staff offers

2. Chat with your mentors. If you don’t have any–chat with your current or former professors. If you feel unsure, then contact the Undergraduate Advisors and chat with her/him.

  • Let this contact know that you’re on the job market and see if they have any suggestions for you.
  • Ask this person if s/he is willing to review your resume or CV.

3. Work your networks.

  • Let everyone in your network know that you are looking for work. (This might include your partner, girlfriend/boyfriend, parents, coworkers, pastor, coach, etc.
  • Make coffee appointments or other appointments with people and come with your resume in hand. Let people know that you are looking for work.
  • Ask your contacts if they have any leads or suggestions for you.
  • Offer to take the person out for coffee…chances are that you’ll go dutch or the other person will want to pay, but you really should be willing to offer.
  • Research if there are other means of engaging in the community–social media, Chamber of Commerce, and other groups related to your area.

4. Keep a positive attitude.

  • it might take you several months to find work that meets your requirements
  • Be willing to get your foot in the door and accept an entry level position
  • Sleep, eat right, exercise, and try to save money or spend as little money as possible as you’re set on your job search goal.

5. Be flexible

  • Make sure that you’re willing to take a job that isn’t your career. This job might help you get to the next step.
  • Don’t dismiss the job. The connections you make might turn into gold for the next job or get you toward your career goal.

6. When you get an interview offer for your dream job or even plan b

  • Talk to a trusted mentor about questions to expect, dress, and other points so that you’re ready for the interview
  • Try to coordinate a mock interview with a few trusted friends–preferable people who have interviewed more than you.
  • Think about the questions you might get asked and work out answers. You might even practice in front of a mirror.
  • During the interview, remember that it’s acceptable to pause for a second–get your bearings and then answer the question.
  • e. Send a thank you card after the interview. Keep it simple: thank the person, committee or team for the interview and note that you look forward to hearing from them.
  • f. Do not bad mouth the company or any of the employees on any social media.

7. You get an offer

  • Try to negotiate for more pay or benefits. It doesn’t hurt. Particular to women–we tend to not negotiate and accept the offer.
  • Review the offer with someone who you trust.
  • Counter offer and wait. (Be reasonable with your counter offer)
  • Do not involved your parents in the counter offer—your mom or dad should not call and complain about the offer!

8. Accept the job

  • Work in the position like you are in probation. You might be on probation! So you have to prove to your employer why you are invaluable.
  • Dress for the job you want and not just the job you have.
  • Be professional in dress (note 8 b) and in your attitude.

Remember your job does not necessarily define you. Each job can provide you useful experience and build your resume.

Academics on Academia: Supportive Networks

I sat on Liana’s last post thinking about how important support networks were to me during the various phases of my academic career thus far: undergraduate, new graduate student in Liberal Arts, new graduate student in Political Science, ABD in Political Science, Adjunct, Sessional, and now tenure-track faculty. Support networks never go out of style. They serve an important role helping the academic traverse through the morass of academia. There are multiple reasons why we have legions of ABDs. One major reason, in my opinion, is the lack of supportive networks or people in the student’s life. This includes personal life and professional life.

It’s important to remember that we need camaraderie, mentorship, and support. I have previously shared how lucky I was to be a member of a woman’s academic support group. This group made me realize that I would have to find support networks in Political Science. And, like Liana previously blogged, I had to get outside of my comfort zone and network. This meant attending conferences (debt) and making connections. Then, at the next conference people recognized me and things and I became part of the academic community.

You can’t snap your fingers and have a network of people who are your academic posse. You have to cultivate it and I would argue that you have to have multiple networks to keep sane in this game. There is so much competition and you are rife to have moments of self-doubt, you networks will keep you grounded and focused. Likewise, you need to have supportive networks outside of academe. Gasp. This means you need to try to have a rounded laugh. Oh, stop laughing or smirking. It’s true. You need to take time for yourself, too. This seems antithetical to academe, but it’s important to take care of you!

How do you find the seedlings for supportive networks? One place is via social media. You might find that the professional organization related to your field(s) is the first place to start, but don’t stop there. Look on Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and blogs, too. Don’t think that the conferences are the only place to connect with like minded people in your field. See if you can make some early connections via social media sites and then meet up IRL at the conferences. The time investment in meeting people is worth it. Academic communities are incestuous at times and everyone in your discipline knows someone else. This can work to your favor when you’re applying for scholarships, post-docs, and jobs. It can also work to your disadvantage if you’ve been foolish or have burned a bridge via bad behaviour. So, always be professional and collegial.

When you’re at the conferences, business meetings for the sections or groups that you’re interested are worth attending. This is if they are open to the general membership. Find a friendly face and sit near them or hover and listen and learn. You have to make the effort to reach out and hopefully someone will see this and connect with you. Good luck as you look for supportive networks and as you build them, too.

Challenge Update

I am participating in a challenge with some of my colleagues at the University of Venus ( @UVenus ). We are taking special care to network and meet people across our campus. Given that I am the Chair of the Academic Women’s Caucus this provides me an easy way to do this, but I have also had a few coffee meetings to meet with different colleagues across the campus and would like to speak to how helpful this has proven during these last two months.

Most recently I met with the coordinator for the Anti-Violence Project and we are working on a shared conversation about safe spaces on campus and the university support of safety. These are just the early conversations, but it was great to have this meeting that caused us to find out that we share some of the same professional networks.

Last month I had coffee with Dr. Jentery Sayers from the English Department at UVIC and I was so impressed and envious with his courses and current area of research. I was happy to get some of the flyers for his course, “How to Network a Novel.” It looks like an amazing course and I have since shared the flyer with the students enrolled in my courses.

For the second year I am sitting on the December 6th memorial planning committee, and the committee is made of some different staff from last year and I have the opportunity to work with a great group of women from all over campus. And, I look forward to the events that we are planning.

I have also met informally and formally with different staff from the UVIC Communications team and have repeatedly found the team helpful and professional. If your campus has a communications team and you haven’t met them yet—get to it. They can help get you on the Experts Database (if your campus has one) and make sure that you are included in media releases.

And, the last thing that I spearheaded was the nomination of a colleague for a teaching award. This turned into more work than I anticipated, but it was a great process for my involvement. I contacted probably upwards of 60 people for the dossier and the file fielded some strong, personal assessments. Ultimately, I felt honored to play a small role in this nomination. It is important for me to note that this nomination was based on my position as the Chair of the Academic Women’s Caucus. I hope that next year the Caucus can nominate another woman on the Steering Committee. Part of my self-imposed mandate is mentoring and this includes peer to peer mentoring and support.

I have had a productive first few months for the challenge and look forward to the next few months!

Using Social Media to Help You Make Connections

Today I’m going to share my notes from Russel Lolacher’s ( @ruslol ) talk at #UVIC in September. His talk “How Using Social Media Can Help You Get the Job You Want” was well attended and I was thrilled to see him speak to each individual student who descended upon him after his talk. For many conversant with social media my notes might seem obvious. The talk was really geared for college students, who we know are mostly on Facebook, but for many the rest of their social media footprint is small. Lolacher gave some honest advice and often used himself as the example, which really makes his presentations that more effective and endearing. I have heard him speak on numerous occasions and if you need someone to talk about social media–ask him. But, note that his work for the BC government keeps him busy. Lolacher is the Social Media Director for the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. This position, Social Media Director, was the first of its kind in the BC government and I am hopeful that it will not be the last.

My notes and please understand that I have fleshed out these points. This is not verbatim from his talk:

1. Talk to people. Go to Tweet Ups or Meet Ups. Meeting people and expanding your networks can help you with your job search. Lolacher noted that he spent about 18 months meeting people and networking before he got his current position.

2. Don’t go online if you not focused. If you’re not sure what you want, be careful. Try to figure out what you’re trying to do. If you want to become a food blogger, then go to the food related blogs. Try to make connections with other bloggers or people who are immersed in that community.

3. Don’t sound desperate. You need patience as you endeavor in this expansion of your networks. It’s going to take work and you might be scared at first. Take someone with you to an event.

4. Get on Linked In and participate in the community. Be strategic and ask questions. Many of the companies that you’re interested in are on Linked In–engage with them.

5. Get a business card! Paper and online. You can use About Me Visualize Me, Flavor Me, Beyond Credentials and countless others. Make sure that your paper business card includes links to your social media footprint.

6. Related to all of these points–make sure that your social media footprint is acceptable for networking and a future employer. Review the photos with your tags on Facebook. Are they all “clean” and appropriate. You do not want an old photo or comment on Facebook or elsewhere to influence your hiring, promotion, or other important work related matter.

7. Find your passion, find your niche!

Lolacher said more, but I was trying to pay attention and then realized that I should take notes and share! If you feel like a newbie, schedule a coffee with someone who you know that has a larger online presence. Make sure that you are honest with this person and go from there.